The Peterborough Greenspace Coalition (PGC) welcomes the decision of Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to “bump up” the Class Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Parkway Corridor to a full EA. This decision gives us an opportunity to reconsider our transportation alternatives and priorities. It also provides a chance to have a more authentic conversation about the role of transportation in connecting a vibrant downtown with the rest of our community for a brighter future.
In March 2014, the PGC along with 87 other individuals and organizations in Peterborough, argued to the MOECC that the scaled down, streamlined “Class EA” of the Parkway extension project was deficient, and as such needed to be “bumped up” to the rigour of a full Environmental Assessment. Our submission argued, and the Minister agrees, that the final Environmental Assessment report was flawed and thus met the criteria for granting a bump up to full EA for the following four reasons;
- Significant outstanding public concern: this project is the most controversial and divisive issue faced by Peterborough over the past three decades. Residents rejected a smaller (1/3 the cost, without a bridge over Jackson’s Park) version of this project in an earlier referendum. The vast majority who spoke at the EA public meetings in 2013 were against it, 6100 people in a petition were opposed to a bridge over Jackson Park, and more than 80 residents requested a Bump-up (the most non-form letters ever received by the MOECC).
- Inadequate or ineffective public consultation: The final EA report did not reflect, in a substantial manner, ANY of the many concerns that were voiced time and time again during the consultation process. Indeed, in his decision, Minister Murray states “there is a need for additional consultation due to significant public interest and potential adverse impacts to the public.”
- Significant outstanding environmental impacts: the final report itself identified that the preferred option had the worst natural and cultural environmental impacts (e.g. on existing natural corridor and rare trout population), and had ineffective inventory and mitigation measures that are roundly criticized by leading experts.
- Inadequate assessment of alternatives: The EA report did not fully explore the potential for other transportation alternatives (transit, cycling, car pooling etc) to reduce vehicular traffic, it did not consider the full potential for traffic flow improvements (coordinated signalling, intersection improvements, real time monitoring & control), nor did it genuinely consider the potential for combinations of other road network improvements to reduce projected traffic flows.
The flawed EA report came to its conclusion with virtually no higher level policy guidance, without an updated vision for the future of our city, because the Official Plan had not had a comprehensive review since 1981. A future full EA on the Parkway Corridor with more oversight over the incorporation of public input would allow Peterborough to “heal” and reclaim faith in democracy at the local level. This decision and our local Climate Change Action Plan provide opportunities for the city to consider how it can best join the quickly emerging global trend towards lower carbon, more accessible forms of transportation, and the needs and preferences of our senior and younger populations.
In the wake of this pivotal decision by the MOECC, it must be acknowledged that there are remaining concerns over traffic problems, particularly in the north end. Proponents of the Parkway Project are no doubt disappointed that this project now needs to be reconsidered. There are solutions to these legitimate concerns which could be implemented very quickly. Arterial road changes, traffic calming measures, traffic light synchronization and computerized traffic management systems could be implemented in short order. These measures could address these concerns for a fraction of the $80 million cost of the Parkway.
It also must be recognized that an effective public transit system and more fully developed cycling infrastructure are key to improving transportation in the city. There is currently an expense line in the 2017 city budget of $6 million for the Parkway; this money could be immediately reallocated towards these transportation options.
The PGC fully recognizes that today’s decision does not mean the Parkway extension will never be built. But it is encouraged to see increased awareness within citizenry, council and city staff of the benefits of alternate means of transportation and the importance of greenspace preservation for quality of life in Peterborough. This line of thinking mirrors that of successful cities the world over. What we should ultimately be striving for is the most cost-effective, equitable, environmentally sustainable, and health promoting way of moving people – not just moving cars. The originally proposed project would likely cost upwards of $100 million. Let’s take the time that the Minister has now granted us to make sure we get this one right.
For more information, contact
camdouglas at bell dot net